Ask any cyclist what one of the most frustrating things to happen is and they will tell you that a bike chain coming off at a random moment can be frustrating to deal with. However, it can happen at any moment, and should the bike chain come off, you might be asking yourself how to tighten a bike chain and ensure you make it to your destination.
The bike chain is often flimsy and it can come off at any point. It generally takes plenty of loads, but if you don’t perform regular maintenance, it could come off in the middle of your journey. Fortunately, it does not always come off and sometimes it might just be loose. This enables you to continue towards your destination.
If the bike chain comes off at an unforeseen time, you will need to know how to tighten it. If you are carrying the right equipment, it should be much easier. However, the article aims to show you how to fix a bike chain that has come loose. We will look at a variety of different bikes that it might happen to, ensuring you can fix it.
Why Bike Chains Fall Off
Having your bike chain fall off now and again should not have you worried. However, if it keeps falling off repeatedly, it might be due to some issues. You must look at these potential issues and make sure that you know how to compensate for them. Once you know what to look for, it can be avoided. Here are some of the main reasons for bike chains falling off:
A Stretched Or Worn Chain
One of the first reasons that bike chains tend to fall off is when the chain is worn or stretched. After doing a couple of miles on the bike, the small connections that hold the chain together might loosen and these will stretch out the chain. Once the chain is stretched out far enough, it will simply slide from the cogs.
Additionally, you might also have a worn chain and some of the connections might be damaged. Driving excessive bumpy and off-road trails might lead to them shaking and being damaged. The worn chain will slide off the cogs and this might lead to the chain falling off.
Wrong Drivetrain Components
Another reason for the chain falling from the bike is if you have the incorrect chain. At face value, it might seem like all bike chains are the same. However, this is not the case and many chains are compatible with certain cassettes and chainrings. You should make sure that your chain is in the right condition and compatible with other parts.
Cogs Being Worn
As you might have noticed, there are often cogs on the gears and these cogs connect with the chain of the bike. One of the downsides is that the cogs can wear out over time. Once these cogs begin to wear, the chain will automatically slide off the gears and you won’t have any connection that holds it in place correctly.
Derailleur Alignment And Adjustments
One of the main issues that happen when people make adjustments without the right knowledge is that they forget to fasten the screws that keep the chain on the cassettes. Once these screws get loose enough, the screws holding the chain on the bike might fall off. Once this happens, it could lead to the chain falling off the bike.
The same issue goes for the alignment. If you have a bike with numerous gears, you need to make sure that everything is correctly in line. If the connections aren’t in line, the chain might slip off the bike then, which means that it does not make contact.
Bad Quality Shifters
When looking at drivetrains, SRAM and Shimano are two of the best and most popular brands on the market today. You must choose a reliable brand when buying shifters and make sure they are compatible with the cassettes and chainrings. Having bad quality shifters means that the connections might not be secure and you might find the bike chain coming off frequently.
Basics You Will Need To Tighten A Bike Chain
While you don’t need much to fix your bike, there are a couple of important things we would recommend before you get started. Most of these things are common household items and they should be in your shed or garage. Here are some of the critical things that you will need to tighten the chain on your bike:
- Gloves: To keep your hands free of grease and dirt
- Rag: This will enable you to clean the bike and remove any grease or dirt
- Chain Lubricant: Chain lubricant is always important to ensure the chain works optimally
- Stand: The stand helps to elevate the bike off the floor. However, you can flip it on the handlebars as well.
- Socket Wrench: You will be using the socket wrench to loosen the nuts and give you access to the chain and the rear wheel.
There are specialized sets of tools that you can consider as well. However, you don’t need to buy something expensive to fix your bike chain. If you feel like buying something, the 23 Piece Bike Tool Kit is one of the most complete options available. We would recommend that you consider buying it for fixing any bike.
Tightening A Bike Chain On A Single Gear Bike
Now that you have seen some of the reasons why bike chains might fall off, you might also be wondering how to tighten them. Fortunately, we have done the research and here you can find out how to tighten these chains. The following steps should ensure that you know how to tighten a bike chain on a single gear bike:
1.Flip The Bike Over And Orient It Correctly
You must orient the bike to make sure that everything is straightened. One way to do this is to flip the bike over and have it balance on the handlebars. With the wheels in the air, it is much easier to orient the bike and get it in a straight line.
2.Removing The Rear Tire
The rear tire is what controls almost everything on the bike. You will find a nut that connects everything. It is important that you correctly loosen this nut to give you access to the chain and help to fix it when you find that it is loosened.
3.Pulling Back The Rear Tire
Once you have the tire loosened, you can control the tension of the chain. One way to make the chain tighter is by pulling back on the rear tire. However, you need to make sure that you don’t pull back too hard. These chains can often snap and you might even find that you loosen some of the chain components when pulling back too hard.
4.Find The Correct Tension
Once you have loosened every component and you can control the rear tire, you will need to find the right tension. You can play around with the rear tire to find the right tension. However, you should check the chain to see if you can move it in both directions. If the chain is too loose, you should be able to move it farther than half an inch.
If it is still too loose, you can gradually move the tire back a bit more and this will tighten the chain, even more, to ensure that it does not move. Once again, you should be cautious and carefully move the tire to ensure that you don’t have too much tension building up, which could force the chain to snap.
5.Refit And Tighten The Rear Tire
Once you have found the right tension, you will need to fasten the tire back to the bike. You should put the tire back in place and make sure that everything is balanced. Once done, you can start to fasten each of the nuts to the correct position to ensure that the chain holds the tension you have selected and stays tight.
When dealing with the rear tire, you need to be careful not to pull it too much or to not have it fixed correctly. If it is not fixed correctly, you might have issues with balance and the alignment of the wheels will not be ideal. Before fastening any of the nuts, you need to make sure that all of the components are in place as they should be.
6.Do Finishing Checks
Once you are done with everything, you need to revisit the chain and the rear tire. While the bike is still on the handlebars, you have the perfect opportunity to do some of the finishing checks and see if all the components are lined up. After you are satisfied, you can take the bike for a test ride to see if everything is working correctly.
Tightening The Chain On A Multi-Gear Bike
If you own a multi-gear bike like a mountain bike, you will notice that the process is a little different. These bikes have more complex setups and they need a little more time to fix if the chain is loosened. However, this guide will enable you to see how it can be done. Here is a systematic guide on how to tighten the chain on a multi-gear bike:
1. Start With The Rear Tire
Once again, you will need to start with the rear tire. The rear tire is what you will need to remove or adjust when trying to fasten the chain. However, there are two methods that people can use to access the tire without any issues. The first one is by flipping the bike upside down and balancing it on the handlebars.
The second option is using a bike stand. However, the key is to ensure that you can lift the rear tire off the ground to make sure that it is in a position of being elevated. This will give you access to the rear tire and allow you to proceed with some of the following steps.
2. Access The Derailleur Screw
Instead of having to remove the wheel, you can use the derailleur screw to make everything possible. Once you have accessed the derailleur screw, you can loosen or tighten the chain with the right tools. You want to turn it in a clockwise direction if you are to fasten the screw and an anticlockwise turn if you want to loosen it.
Make sure that you control the tension slowly to make sure that you don’t overdo it. Much like the single gear bikes, you can damage and even break the chain if you pull too hard.
3. Getting To The Rear Wheel
To ensure the chain is correctly adjusted, you might need to access the rear wheel. These wheels are fixed better than a single-gear bike and you might need to put in a little more effort to make it work. To loosen the rear wheel, you need to loosen the brakes and the cable that connects the brake to the handlebars.
Once you have the brakes removed, you can access the quick-release mechanism, which allows you to take the wheel off. You want to make sure that you remember these steps and you will be applying them when you put the wheel back on the bike.
4. Adjusting The Rear Wheel
Once you have control over the rear wheel, you will need to adjust it in the right position that you can use it. You might need to play around with the wheel, but wheel alignment is one of the most important things to keep in mind. You can move it backward slightly, which should assist in keeping the chain tight for as long as possible.
5. Fixing Everything Back In Place
Once you are done with your adjustments and you are satisfied with the position of the chain, you can put everything back in place. It might not be easy for everyone, but following the above-mentioned steps in the opposite order should help you to do so. Make sure that you correctly fasten all the components and your chain is tightened.
6. Texting The Bike
Before setting out on one of your journeys, you will need to make sure that everything is in working condition. The best way to do this is to stress-test the bike where you can fix it. If the bike is still elevated on the stand, you might want to use it as a stationary bike to see how everything comes together.
It is the perfect opportunity to make any changes if you don’t feel comfortable with the bike being in optimal condition and working to your liking.
How To Prevent Your Bike Chain Falling Off
If you don’t want to go through all these steps, you should know how to prevent your bike chain from falling off. We have identified some of the main methods that you can use to prevent your bike chain from falling off. These also include caring for the bike chain to make sure that it does not get damaged or need to be replaced.
One of the best ways to make sure that things on your bike don’t break is regular maintenance. By doing regular maintenance, you will be able to spot any issues that might arise and this means that you don’t have to worry about things going wrong randomly. However, bike chains might still go off on random occasions.
Taking Your Bike For A Service
There are many bike stores in and around cities and all of them offer you a service for your bike. They will not only fix the chain issues you have but also look at any other issues that might arise. You should consider this if you don’t have the technical expertise or tools. It might be more expensive but should ensure your bike is in optimal condition.
Keeping Your Bike Clean
One big issue we often see is individuals not cleaning the bike or washing the dirt off. If you have a mountain bike, you might be dealing with plenty of dirt and grease. It is important to clean the bike now and again. You could be removing dirt, which could rust the chain, and reapply the lubricant as needed.
Nothing can be more frustrating than having to deal with bike chain issues. However, you have the control to fix this and make sure that the bike chain is in optimal condition. We hope these tips have helped you in fixing your chain and getting ready for your next trip. Let us know in the comment section if we have missed any important details that show you how to tighten a bike chain.